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Introducing TED's Cinematographer

David Waldman Lighting a TED Conference

In early April 2018, I headed to Vancouver to serve as the Cinematographer and Visual Consultant on my 34th TED Conference. Looking back on the evolution of TEDTalks since I was first hired in 2008 is humbling. As TEDís Cinematographer, I am part of a small team responsible for the look of each conference, each session, and each TEDTalk. At a larger conference like TEDGlobal, TEDWomen, or the main TED event which currently takes place annually in Vancouver, we will shoot anywhere from 50 to 120 talks in a three- to five-day period and typically have five to nine cameras and hundreds if not over a thousand lighting cues. From the preproduction meetings through the live recording, my goal is to use camera angles and lighting to create an individual visual style for each speaker that presents them and their Idea Worth Spreading in the most dynamic and thematically appropriate way.

What makes TED such a creatively and technically challenging endeavor is the need to serve three audiences equally: the audience in the room; those watching a live-cut simulcast; and the millions viewing the edited talks after they are posted online. Even though the medium of highest impact is clearly the online viewership (which is more than a billion distinct views), the live audience deserves a unique and highly impactful experience of their own. Additionally, my nine cameras must be positioned to provide the online audience with the feeling of being in a room with the speaker talking directly to them, while not distracting the live audience or calling attention to themselves.

My involvement with TED directly benefits my students at CSULB though discussions of the real-world production challenges I face at each event. These challenges include communication strategies; how to present creative ideas; how to take criticism; how to navigate sensitive political and hierarchical situations; and how to improvise visually appropriate solutions in the moment when things donít go as planned.

David Waldman lighting for TED Global in Rio de Janeiro

Shaping the lighting for TEDGlobal in Rio de Janeiro

I am often asked what my favorite TEDTalk is. After being in the room for over 2,000 of them, this is a very difficult question to answer. However, these three TEDTalks continue to inspire me:

While attending a TED Conference can be cost prohibitive, the ubiquity of locally produced and independently organized TEDx events like our own TEDxCSULB make it possible for everyone to experience the inspiration and excitement of ideas shared from the TED stage.

In this issue: